Verb Stems


The root of an Egyptian verb consists of a set of consonants, which are referred to as “radicals”, much as they are in Egyptian’s closest cousins, Hebrew and Arabic, in which the inflection of verbs can be quite complicated, but a lot of it is described in terms of changes or additions to the radicals.

The traditional root used as a paradigm by modern grammarians of Egyptian is sḏm “hear”. This is a verb with three radicals.

Egyptian verbs have several different stem forms:

  1. Base. This is usually the root, but if the root ends in j or w, since those are weak, the base stem will be the root without that final radical; the base stem of sḏm is sḏm, but the base stem of prj “emerge” is pr.
  2. Geminated. This is formed by doubling the final radical of the base stem: for sḏm it is sḏmm, while for prj it is prr. A geminated verb will have the sense of continually, repetitively, or habitually performing the action represented by the ungeminated form.
  3. Causative. This is formed by adding s at the beginning of the root, and usually means something like “to cause the basic verb.” ssḏm would be “cause to hear”; sprj would be “cause to emerge”.

Note that all causatives begin with s, but not every verb beginning with s is a causative; sḏm itself is an example of a non-causative verb that begins with s.

Irregular Verbs

Some verbs behave differently from other verbs of their class in one or another form, but there are three which are particularly irregular.

rdj “cause, give, put”Can be written with the mouth 𓂋 r followed by either of the biliterals for dj: 𓂋 𓏙 or 𓂋𓂞, or infrequently just followed by the arm 𓂋𓂝.

Irregularly, it has a second base stem which means the same thing: dj, spelled like rdj without the r (𓏙, 𓂞, 𓂝)

The geminated stem is dd, spelled as one of the glyphs for the base stem dj twice. (𓏙𓏙, 𓂞𓂞, 𓂝𓂝)
jjj “come, return”Has two different stems, jjj and jwj. The former is spelled with the walking reed 𓇍 and sometimes a phonetic complement 𓇋 or 𓏭 and the “legs” determinative; the latter with the legs 𓂻 and usually a phonetic complement w, but the final j is rarely written.

The geminated stem is 𓂻𓅱 jw, rarely jww, apparently derived from the jwj stem rather than jjj.
jmj “not to be, not to do”This verb is “defective”; it only appears in two forms. It appears in the sḏm.f form (the basic conjugated verb form) to negate wishes or commands (“you should not”, “it should not”) or as its own imperative m to negate imperatives.